Letter of the day: Dental care and special needs
THE EDITOR, Sir:
Children and adults with special needs are valuable members of our society. However, when it comes to certain health services, they tend to be forgotten. A special-needs individual is defined as any person who has a physical, developmental, mental, sensory, behavioural, cognitive, or emotional impairment or limiting condition that requires medical management, health-care intervention, and/or use of special services or programmes.
The assistance that these individual require sometimes makes oral health a difficult component to monitor as they often find it hard to brush their teeth themselves, or need assistance in doing so. These patients may therefore be at an increased risk for oral diseases throughout their lifetime. There is a series of other components that can predispose a special-needs patient to having dental issues. For instance, patients with Down's Syndrome tend to become predisposed to gum disease due to their compromised immune system.
With the ratio of dentists in Jamaica being 1:17,000 and the cadre of government dentists being approximately 55 to serve the entire country, you can easily see the dilemma. It is easy for special-needs patients to fall through the cracks and not receive proper dental treatment.
The establishment of a dental home, which is a general dentist's office where these patients can go on a regular basis, is essential. It has been proven that patients with a dental home are more likely to receive appropriate preventative and routine dental care. The University of Technology College of Oral Health Sciences is making strides in the right direction. This, however, is not enough; more needs to be done to help the special-needs population throughout the country by providing early screening, detection and prevention programmes, as well as curative services.